Provincial Health Minister Tyler Shandro reported the province is only a few days late arriving at their target of 29,000 immunizations for COVID-19.
Shandro called the goal “aggressive” and noted the speed vaccines were given was largely dependent on things outside of their control like how much vaccine was delivered and when.
He noted the only province in Canada right now to have immunized more people per capita is Prince Edward Island.
Specific local data regarding the number of people vaccinated is not yet available. Residents of St. Paul Extendicare did begin receiving the vaccine on Jan. 2, including 88-year old Cecile Kotowich.
Kotowich said, “after working as a nurse in the hospital from a young age, I realize that needles are important to survive.”
“I know some don’t believe in it, but it really is a really good thing,” said Kotowich.
In order to facilitate immunization, AHS has launched an online appointment booking tool and is recruiting more staff.
Chief Medical Officer of Health for the province, Dr. Deena Hinshaw explained that there is a process in place to ensure doses of the vaccine are not being wasted, but also noted that once the vaccines are thawed and brought to room temperature they must be used within a few hours.
“AHS has been instructed to overbook appointment slots to ensure someone is always in line. In the rare case that there is a dose left in a vial and no patient is available, AHS will immunize the onsite staff to ensure that no dose is going to waste,” said Hinshaw.
She said there is likely to be some small amount of waste in any immunization program due to human error like dropping a vial, but said the processes in place have kept waste even lower than what is normally seen during the flu vaccination campaign.
“Every dose counts, and we want to immunize as many Albertans as possible. We will keep looking for ways to reduce waste, as more vaccines arrive,” said Hinshaw.
She cautioned Albertans who see concerning stories online to check the facts before sharing the reports broadly “as rumours can spread, and can be harmful.”
According to the province, as of Jan. 4, 26,269 doses of the vaccine have been administered. Another 13,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive later this week.
Right now, Alberta is in Phase 1A of distribution, which offers immunizations to respiratory therapists, health care workers in intensive care units, staff in long term care and designated supportive living facilities, home care workers, health care workers in emergency departments, and all residents of long term care and designated supported living sites, regardless of their age.